The San Francisco 49ers lost a tough one to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, stumbling their way to a 10-9 loss. The first step in the post-game process is to complain about what the 49ers did not do right. Generally that becomes the running theme, no matter what the other team did. In Sunday's loss to the Panthers, we need to consider what the Carolina defense was able to do.
The 49ers had their share of execution problems, but the Panthers deserve credit for their dominant defensive performance. Yes, Colin Kaepernick struggled to find open receivers, but frequently that was because he was running for his life. The Panthers were able to send their seven man front at the 49ers, leaving plenty of coverage over the top.
We'll need to take a closer look at the All-22, but from what I saw today, that Panthers defense is something to behold. It seemed like they were frequently able to simply bulldoze their way through the 49ers offensive line. The 49ers offensive line held up on occasion, but more often than not, they were clearly losing the battle. The Panthers ended up with six sacks and seven hits.
The 49ers actually had something going in the run game, with Frank Gore averaging 5.1 yards per carry. I was a bit surprised, and annoyed that the 49ers did not go for it on 4th and goal from the 1. They tried to draw the Panthers offsides, but when you are built as a team that can run teams over, this is the situation where you use that strength. Instead, the 49ers settled for three. Jim Harbaugh said the team was without certain personnel groups with Vernon Davis and Garrett Celek out of the game. Maybe the team needs to work on some of those heavy plays with just extra offensive linemen, to be safe.
Even without Davis and Celek, it's not like the Panthers were showing much on offense. Why not line up heavy and roll the dice? I realize you don't want to leave points out there, but I just don't get it.
After the game, Colin Kaepernick told the media that it was about the 49ers not executing, and that the team wasn't surprised by the Carolina defense. Execution was part of the problem, but the Panthers defense should not get short shrift. That is a very stout defense.
The 49ers will need to figure out what went wrong, because I'm sure the Panthers film will be added to the Seahawks and Colts film. The 49ers dominated for five weeks, but they have some clear weaknesses. We'll see how they adjust heading into New Orleans next week.